I think I'm experiencing dark night

Aleksandar Bozic, modified 1 Month ago.

I think I'm experiencing dark night

Posts: 4 Join Date: 8/25/21 Recent Posts
I have been meditating for 4 years now on and off and have become consistent in my practice in the last 6 months or so. I have been doing "Do Nothing" meditation but had no real insight. Then while I was talking to a friend about how awakening felt (he is further down the path than I) in my minds eye I finally saw IT. 
A giant empty black circle around which everything was happening. It was completely still. I felt goose bumps and my whole brain felt  like it was in a kind of ice fire. Since then I believe I have entered the dark night. I'm feeling waves of anxiety and twitching. Only way to stop it is to completely relax through the feeling. I have resistance because it feels like I'm going to dissapear or die. A couple of times I have felt everything I experience start folding inside out. That one is the most uncomfortable for me and I have felt the need to vomit a couple of times.
Is this dark night territory?
Is there anyway to make things easier?
Should I relax through it or not?
Should I meditate or just try to survive? emoticon
Is there a way to at least stop the inside out part?
shargrol, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: I think I'm experiencing dark night

Posts: 1620 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
If you want good advice, you will probably have to say a lot more about your practice.

What map are you using?
What makes you think you have gone through earlier stages? Describe what has happened over the last six months.
How much are you practicing a day? a week?
What method are you using?
What is a typical sit like?
What problems occur in a typical sit?
How do you adjust your practice based on what occurs during the sit?
What do you do when you fall into discursive thinking?
What do you do when greed, aversion, or indifference arises?
What access do you have to teachers?
What access do you have to sangha?
What are your goals in practice? Why are you practicing? 
What sort of tangible benefit do you want from practice -- not in terms of maps, but in terms of your actual life?

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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: I think I'm experiencing dark night

Posts: 5922 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Spontaneously when I read your post I recognized the darknight territory as I experienced it leading up towards stream entry, except I enjoyed the ride, especially the experience of some force turning all my senses inside out. So I'd say that it could very well be the dukkha nanas. The giant empty black circle in the centre of one's attention sounds like dissolution experienced with relatively strong concentration and sensory clarity. Tensions and twitches and anxiety can be part of the lower nanas as well, so that's hard to say anything about, but somehow I get the feeling that you are referring to third vipassana jhana. Some more descriptions of your experiences wouldn't hurt, though. People use words so differently, and meditation experiences are so difficult to put into words, so I could very well be projecting my own experiences onto something entirely different just because you happened to mention a few things that were key to how I used to describe my experiences during that specific phase in my practice. 

I later found out what it was that was driving things so forcefully to turn inside out. I'm not sure it would be such a good idea to tell you at this time. Then again, since it is so uncomfortable for you, maybe it would be helpful. I'm not sure. I think that for now I'll at least say this: if you genuinely intend for it to slow down and be more gentle with you, it will. You would have to get your subconscious on board too, though. That's probably the most challenging part. That's why you find it so uncomfortable, like you said it yourself. You feel resistance towards the process. And yet you are driving it to keep going. Different parts of you, or different cognitive and emotional processes, are aiming for different directions. It's like you are a carriage and the horses pulling the cart at the same time, and suddenly the horses start running in different directions. That creates tensions, to say the least. 

It probably sounds a bit crazy, but in retrospect I often miss this part of the process. It was so incredibly rich. So much going on. So much to learn from it! Of course there are still intense and rich phases to go through, but since I'm not through them yet, I can't yet see the richness of them. Third vipassana jhana leading up to stream entry was life changing for me. So incredibly much to learn about my own mind, and with so many cool special effects that made it a trip. We are all different, and I can certainly understand why it can be uncomfortable, or even terrifying for that matter, but I guess I have enough of a "masochistic" side for that phase to have been an amazing ride. It's not like someone else can just decide to enjoy it and have the problem solved, so I'm not going to try to convince you of that. I guess I'm just trying to share a different perspective and hope that it's not just downright annoying, but if we're lucky maybe some aspect of it resonates a little bit with some process that is part of you right now, in a way that opens something up a little bit. 

There are so many early glimpses in third vipassana jhana, pointing to what is to come, but often in distorted ways. Kind of like when our dreams are trying to tell us something and use overly dramatic imagery and quite bizarre scenes. It can make it seem like awakening would be like having to die and wake up to an entirely different experience. I'm definitely not fully awakened, but I'm past stream entry (pragmatic style) and some more, and so far my experiences are in line with what others have described before me: what is "lost" in awakening is just something that was never there in the first place, so there is no loss. Life continues. I'm still alive and kickin'. If anything, I'm more present, and in more awake moments there is much less "tunnel vision". It's actually very undramatic. 

The inside out part without the resistance is incredibly peaceful and spacious and full of love and compassion. At least that's my experience. I suspect that most meditators that experience that version of it never even think of it as being turned inside out. It only appears as turning inside out if one pays attention to detailed aspects of sensory processing while the shift appears, or starts to appear. I think you stop at the threshold, refusing to let go of a dualistic worldview. At least that's what I used to do. The sensory information would start to give different signals, but there was still a part of me that refused to process them as anything else than reality out there as experienced from inside of the entity me. Me as the subject, the world as the object. Inside and outside separate from each other. I still sometimes experience the shift of views as reality turning inside out, but when I don't stop at the threshold, when I don't cling to a specific perspective, it's free from tensions. It's just a whoosh thing, and then everything is more spacious and more beautiful and more alive and more peaceful, and it is so much easier to breathe. 

My advice would be to find some kind of middle way - allowing the process to develop in the direction it needs to go, but without forcing it. I don't think you can stop the inside out part, at least not if you wish to awaken, but it will get much more comfortable. It only feels like an enormous tension because at some level we buy into the belief that there is an inside and an outside in a way that there really isn't. The tension is something we create because we are conditioned to create it. That conditioning can be unlearned. You are just starting to unlearn it. Listen to your body and try to comply with its needs with regard to effort and ease. The body isn't separate from your mind, but the more embodied aspects of knowing are often neglected, so I'm emphasizing it just in case. 

Caveat: All this is filtered through my experience. I'm not claiming that any of this is objective. 

My best wishes for your practice and wellbeing.
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Derek2, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: I think I'm experiencing dark night

Posts: 192 Join Date: 9/21/16 Recent Posts
Hi, Aleksandar,

Is your experience anything like the opening of Bernadette Roberts' The Experience of No-Self? It goes like this:

"[O]n previous occasions, I had come upon a pervasive silence of the faculties so total as to give rise to subtle apprehensions of fear. It was a fear of being engulfed forever, of being lost, annihilated, or blacking out and possibly never returning.

"In such moments, to ward off the fear, I would make some movement of abandoning my fate to God, a gesture of the will, a thought, some type of projection. And every time I did this the silence would be broken and I would gradually return to my usual self, and security.

"Then, one day, this was not to be the case."
Aleksandar Bozic, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: I think I'm experiencing dark night

Posts: 4 Join Date: 8/25/21 Recent Posts
@dere That is exactly the feeling. 
@shargrol I am not that familiar with maps. I'm following MCTB stages of insight since that is what I'm most familiar with.
In the past 6 months I have been doing 20-40 minute sits. I was starting with body scanning after 10-15 minutes switching to shikantaza.
It felt like that improved my concentration the most. I was able to feel blips of impermanence with a lot of what I now know was forced concetration and my focus was on dropping effort but still being able to concentrate. 
During meditation my focus was on finding a location where I tense up or my focus spontaneneously locks on to and either conciously or softly let go of it.
After some time my brain started speeding up and I took that as a sign of doing a good job. I haven't had problems with discursive thinking for a while now since as soon as I notice it, which was probably within 1 second of it happening I immedietly dropped it.
I do not have access to teachers currently. My sangha is the friend that I was talking to.
My goal at first was to regulate my emotions.
Now it is realization. I want to feel more deeply and help people as much as possible. I want to be able to love my girlfriend more, improve my relationship with my parents and so on.
shargrol, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: I think I'm experiencing dark night

Posts: 1620 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Thanks A, 

Well, I think with your goal of realization, there aren't easy answers to your questions...

Is this dark night territory? Hard to say, but you'll go through it at some point.
Is there anyway to make things easier? Not really. Basically the dark night teaches us how to make things easier... by being difficult. It's difficult for everyone and it trains us. But the good news is that the dark night helps us learn how to fully experience and move through difficult experiences. 
Should I relax through it or not? There isn't a simple approach, otherwise dark night would be easy. In general, it's a matter of meeting experience with awareness and learning to soften greed, aversion, and indifference. Sometimes this takes relaxing, sometimes it takes effort.  
Should I meditate or just try to survive? emoticon  Both, but survive at a minimum! emoticon
Is there a way to at least stop the inside out part? With these sorts of things, usually the first time it happens it's the worst. Sort of like realizing "some day my parents will die" is scary to a child the first time they think it. But eventually, we just get used to scary ideas and strange experiences. I wouldn't worry too much about it... but if your goal is realization, you should be prepared for the fact that sometimes it will be boring, sometimes it will be exciting, and sometimes it will make you want to vomit. emoticon
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: I think I'm experiencing dark night

Posts: 5922 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Poor Pepe's work of compiling all your gold quotes will never end when you keep acing it like this, Shargrol. emoticon We should make a t-shirt of this one: "sometimes it will be boring, sometimes it will be exciting, and sometimes it will make you want to vomit". And if it sounds scary, in my experience nausea is very often just a great session of Vipassana wanting to happen. 

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